Hannah Johnson,

Hannah Johnson,

Newbury, Essex County, Massachusetts, 1768

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sampler size: 16½” x 19” • framed size: 21¼” x 23¾” • sold

Hannah Johnson worked this important and very early sampler from the area of Newbury, Massachusetts in 1768; the composition, vibrant pictorial images and needlework are outstanding. Some of the finest of all Massachusetts samplers were made by schoolgirls the towns of Newbury, Newburyport and the greater region in the late 18th century and into the early 19th century. Betty Ring, in Girlhood Embroidery: American Samplers & Pictorial Needlework 1650-1850, Vol 1 (Knopf, 1993), writes about these excellent and handsome samplers that feature, at best, “fruit trees surrounded by birds, beasts and bugs.”

Hannah’s sampler stands as one of the finest of this group. Importantly, it was featured in the seminal 1921 Massachusetts Society of Colonial Dames book, American Samplers by Bolton and Coe as plate XXIV. At that time, it was in the collection of Mrs. Henry E. Coe, widely acknowledged as an important early sampler collector. The sampler was also mentioned in an article on samplers and other forms of work made by girls and ladies, published in the June 1, 1922 issue of Vogue magazine.

The inscriptions on the sampler read:

            Hannah Johnson is my name and with my needle have I

            Worked the same. Newbury Newton 1768 and in the 15 Yer.


            Hannah Johnson is my name english is my nation

            Newbury is my dwelling place and Christ is my

            Salvation. In the year.

Hannah Johnson was born in 1752 to William (1706-1772) and Elizabeth, or Betty, (Bradstreet, 1713-1756) Johnson, the youngest of their nine surviving children. After William’s childhood in Newbury, Massachusetts, he earned his 1727 Bachelor’s and 1730 Master’s degrees from Harvard University. By early 1731, he was already preaching in Hampton Falls as a Congregationalist. On August 30, 1731, William married Betty, and on September 15, 1731, he was ordained and installed as the first minister of the Second Church in West Newbury. Interestingly, West Newbury was originally, and only for a brief time, known as Newbury-Newtown or Newton, as appears on this sampler. William died in 1771, after 38 years of ministry at the Second Church, and his gravestone Walnut Hill Cemetery, Newbury, reads, “He was a gentleman of good understanding of uniform unaffected piety & virtue of a very amiable temper tender & affectionate in his family connections & a benevolent & faithful friend.”

The Johnson family can trace its descent from Maurice Johnson, Esq., P. M. for Stamford, England in 1523 (Reminisces of a Nonagenarian, Sarah Anna Emery, Newburyport: 1879). His great-grandson, Isaac Johnson and his wife, Lady Arabella Piennes, emigrated from Canterbury to Massachusetts in 1623. Hannah was in the fifth generation to be born in the Colonies.

A certain young man also of Newbury, Simeon Chase (1745-1829), grew up spending time at the Johnson house, learning from Parson Johnson. He earned his Bachelor’s degree from Harvard in 1767.

According to Bibliographic Sketches of Those who Attended Harvard College in the Classes 1764-1767 (Clifford Shipton, Boston: 1972), Simeon initially “took no notice of … little Hannah, who used to be sent to draw tankards of cider.” Eventually, Simeon paid attention to this “slight, black-eyed woman” and made her his bride on September 9, 1772; Hannah was then twenty years old. That same year, Wil Johnson died, and Simeon purchased Johnson’s parsonage “with its furnishings, magnificent for the region, and its strong library.” In the home, Johnson established a noted private school for boys and girls. Together, the couple produced five children. Hannah died on March 7, 1831 in West Newbury, Massachusetts. Information from the Massachusetts Vital Records and other published sources are included in the substantial file that accompanies this sampler.

The sampler is worked in silk on linen and is in very good condition with much of the original color; there is some minimal loss which was evident when the sampler was published almost 100 years ago. A photo of the reverse taken prior to mounting is instructive as to technique and condition. It has been conservation mounted and is in a mahogany frame with a gold-leaf bead.


Sampler Verso


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